“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”
- W.B. Yeats
Recently, I’ve been giving some thought to the various accounts of the “Wonders of the World.” They range from the first known list that highlighted seven classical antiquities in the Greek world, to more modern polls and efforts, which catalogue the world’s most spectacular natural wonders and human-made structures. Close to home, we even had the clever tourism campaign by Travel Oregon, listing the seven wonders of Oregon inviting visitors and residents alike to explore places of natural beauty such as: Crater Lake, Smith Rock, the Painted Hills, the Wallowa Mountains, and more.
What do all of the places on these lists have in common? How did they earn their title of being a “wonder?” I believe that those who witness and experience the grandeur of these "wonders" are filled with awe. These places inspire and invite our imaginations into a greater mystery. When combined with solitude and/or reflection, distinct opportunities arise to experience a time of centering and a connection to something bigger; whether it’s a sense of purpose in life, new perspective, or an opportunity to be aware of the of the Holy Spirit's presence.
These senses of wonder and awe are experiences that our human hearts hunger for and need, but unfortunately it’s not always possible to travel to The Great Pyramid of Giza, Machu Picchu, or even Crater Lake.
I have always been fortunate enough to have places of natural beauty close to home: places such as beautiful city parks, a special tree in my backyard growing up, access to forests, and much appreciated camps. As a youth, Camp Indianola, located on the Puget Sound, was one of those special places for me. There was an un-namable gift in sitting among the drift wood or high upon a rock at low tide looking across the water towards Seattle, Mt. Rainer, and the Olympic Mountains. The outdoor chapel and the silent trail leading up to it was holy ground for me (and many others too) during summer youth camps, church retreats, and later when I had the opportunity to serve on staff. The invitation to be quiet and sit under the madrone trees was powerful. It was an opportunity to just be; to listen. In these times, God’s presence was tangible.
From these experiences, I know that the beauty and power felt is not unique to certain settings, but can be freely tapped into in numerous places. This sense of wonder is possible any time we step away from our everyday routine and noise, willingly opening ourselves to a greater mystery. I’ve learned that having an awe filled experience is less about location and more about a willingness to be open and look beyond our immediate needs or desires, to something deeper.
I pray that our campers experience this at Suttle Lake when they’ve climbed to the top of the ridge to look out upon Mt. Jefferson, when they stop to admire the delicate beauty of a trillium in the spring, or when they marvel at the lake covered in ice at winter-time. I also pray that their experiences at camp encourage them to find opportunities at home to recognize and appreciate the gifts of awe and wonder; whether by taking notice of dew drops on a spider’s web or sitting under a tall tree. I pray that they have the courage to step out of our fast paced world, even if only briefly, to open themselves to the amazing grandeur God has to offer.